When is the launch of a toll-free number system not a launch? When it's a re-launch.
Clear Communications is spending $1.5 million on re-launching its 0508 number, saying the time is now right for the product to succeed.
Clear chief executive Tim Cullinane admits the 0508 number (available since 1992) is not new but the conditions and opportunities in the market are.
He says the concept of toll-free numbers is now well accepted, but there is a shortage of some 0800 word names.
"Such names as 0800 FLORIST or 0800 LAWYER are now gone."
He says overseas experience suggests there is strong ongoing demand for name numbers and good opportunity for a second carrier offering alternatives.
Clear marketing general manager Roger Blinko says the original 0508 launch was probably premature.
At the time, the concept of toll-free numbers was fairly new to New Zealand. Now, he says, research shows 55% of people prefer name numbers.
Prior to Clear's recent campaign, recognition of its 0508 numbers was "quite low", as the product hadn't been promoted.
In addition to re-launching the product, Clear has simplified the pricing options to make it consistent with other toll products.
It has approached businesses directly, suggesting name numbers for them, and has reserved numbers for some larger customers.
It has also signed an agreement with radio station group The Radio Network, which will exclusively use 0508 numbers. Clear will not reveal details of the agreement but describes it as a sponsorship arrangement.
Blinko believes it will help Clear break through on the recognition front this time.
"We're really introducing competition again to toll-free ... Now you can have your number and your choice of vendor and that will have its impact on the market - you can expect that deals will be cut because of that."
Clear also uses 0800 numbers which Telecom provided, and has no plans to switch them over to 0508, unless customers ask. Blinko says some businesses may have both 0800 and 0508 for different aspects of their business.
Blinko says the toll-free market is worth about $200 million, and Clear has about 7% of that. He believes it will be a $250 milllion market by 2000.
"This is an area where growth is just unbelievable. Telecom reports itself in the past six months a 30% growth in call times in toll-free."
He says Clear believes between 15% to 30% of Telecom's national call minutes are toll-free, and compares that to the US, where AT&T is running around 50% of their calls toll-free.
"So we know that the market is going to grow."